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Race to the Championship Playoffs – Sept. 27-30

By USLChampionship.com Staff, 09/26/19, 11:43AM EDT

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Hounds clinch their place, but Indy, San Antonio falter on the road ahead of key weekend games


Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC can take control of the race for first place in the Eastern Conference when it hosts Indy Eleven at Highmark Stadium on Saturday night. | Photo courtesy Trevor Ruszkowski / Indy Eleven

Three teams vying for different final goals in the postseason race had road assignments this week. Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC came through on Tuesday night, sealing its place in the postseason for a second consecutive year under Head Coach Bob Lilley, but both Indy Eleven and San Antonio FC fell on Wednesday night to complicate their potential end-of-season finishes.

Ahead of this weekend’s busy slate of action, here’s where everything stands.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

1.Phoenix Rising FC
1. Phoenix Rising FC
Record: 22-3-5, 71pts
Playoff Odds Clinched
Projected Final Position: 1st (Clinched)
Max Points Available: 83pts
Magic Number: N/A
Upcoming: @NM (9/28)
Phoenix was one of the sides to benefit from Indy Eleven’s defeat against ATL UTD 2, and now needs just a draw on the road against New Mexico United to ensure it finishes with the regular season title. With four games remaining to set some more single-season records – Rising FC needs two wins to set the mark for total wins and seven points for most points in a regular season – you’d expect the side to go full throttle into New Mexico.
2. Fresno FC
2. Fresno FC
Record: 16-5-8, 56pts
Playoff Odds Clinched
Projected Final Position: 2nd (79 percent)
Max Points Available: 71pts
Magic Number: N/A
Upcoming: @SA (9/28)
Fresno might have been the lone side not completely happy to see San Antonio FC fall on Wednesday night outside the Alamo City, with the Foxes now having to visit a side that is going to be desperate for all three points to keep itself in the playoff race. If it can take victory, though, Fresno could lock up a home playoff game in the Western Conference Quarterfinals if either Sacramento Republic FC or Orange County SC fail to take victory in their games on Saturday night.
3. Reno 1868 FC
3. Reno 1868 FC
Record: 16-9-5, 53pts
Playoff Odds >Clinched
Projected Final Position: 3rd (74 percent)
Max Points Available: 65pts
Magic Number: N/A
Upcoming: vs. SLC (9/28)
Fresno might have been the lone side not completely happy to see San Antonio FC fall on Wednesday night outside the Alamo City, with the Foxes now having to visit a side that is going to be desperate for all three points to keep itself in the playoff race. If it can take victory, though, Fresno could lock up a home playoff game in the Western Conference Quarterfinals if either Sacramento Republic FC or Orange County SC fail to take victory in their games on Saturday night.
4. Orange County SC
4. Orange County SC
Record: 12-8-9, 42pts
Playoff Odds >99 percent
Projected Final Position: 4th (32 percent)
Max Points Available: 60pts
Magic Number: 9pts
Upcoming: @RGV (9/28)
If Orange County needed any more evidence of the perils of playing on the road, it can thank San Antonio FC for the reminder. While Rio Grande Valley FC could be mathematically eliminated this weekend with a defeat, its 7-5-3 record at H-E-B Park means OCSC could get a bigger challenge than it might expect in South Texas.
5. Sacramento Republic FC
5. Sacramento Republic FC
Record: 13-11-5, 44pts
Playoff Odds >99 percent
Projected Final Position: 4th (44 percent)
Max Points Available: 59pts
Magic Number: 10pts
Upcoming: vs. ELP (9/28)
Republic FC is still a couple of results away from potentially clinching a playoff place but taking victory at home against El Paso Locomotive FC would be a good step forward toward that end and boost its chances of taking fourth place at the end of the season.
6. Real Monarchs SLC
6. Real Monarchs SLC
Record: 12-10-7, 43pts
Playoff Odds 94 percent
Projected Final Position: 5th (17 percent)
Max Points Available: 58pts
Magic Number: 11pts
Upcoming: @RNO (9/28)
San Antonio’s loss nudged the Monarchs’ odds of reaching the playoffs for a third consecutive season up a couple of ticks, but Saturday’s game against Reno 1868 FC – which should the standings remain the same would also be a matchup in the Western Conference Quarterfinals – is going to be a major challenge.
7. Austin Bold FC
7. Austin Bold FC
Record: 12-11-7, 40pts
Playoff Odds 89 percent
Projected Final Position: 7th (17 percent)
Max Points Available: 55pts
Magic Number: 11pts
Upcoming: @POR (9/29)
Bold FC will have been thrilled to see Tulsa’s late winner against San Antonio, which reduced the threat posed by its Copa Tejas rival to its place in the postseason field. Austin will know how its fellow contenders have fared by the time it kicks off in Portland on Sunday, but if it can earn a third road win of the season it would be big for everyone currently above the playoff line and put a major dent in T2’s chances at reaching the postseason.
8. New Mexico United
8. New Mexico United
Record: 10-9-10, 40pts
Playoff Odds 88 percent
Projected Final Position: 7th (18 percent)
Max Points Available: 55pts
Magic Number: 14pts
Upcoming: vs. PHX (9/28)
New Mexico United was also buoyed by San Antonio’s defeat, but it still needs to keep accruing points to make sure of its place in the postseason. A win against Phoenix Rising FC on Saturday night would be great, but with four games to follow against teams sitting below the playoff line – three of which are at home – getting a point out of the contest against the Western Conference leader wouldn’t be a bad result.
9. LA Galaxy II
9. LA Galaxy II
Record: 10-9-10, 39pts
Playoff Odds 64 percent
Projected Final Position: 10th (16 percent)
Max Points Available: 55pts
Magic Number: 14pts
Upcoming: vs. OKC (9/28)
The Galaxy II can take a big step toward their first trip to the playoffs since 2016 if they can take victory at home to OKC Energy FC on Saturday night. In the plus column for Los Dos is that Energy FC has slipped into a poor run of form, taking only two points from its last four outings, but OKC is going to view this game as a must-win for its playoff chances so it could come out fast, something LA will need to be prepared for.
10. El Paso Locomotive FC
10. El Paso Locomotive FC
Record: 10-9-9, 39pts
Playoff Odds 62 percent
Projected Final Position: 11th (15 percent)
Max Points Available: 57pts
Magic Number: 15pts
Upcoming: @SAC (9/28)
After San Antonio’s loss, El Paso not only has a one-point edge in the standings but two games in hand on its Copa Tejas rival, which sets up well for Locomotive FC earning a playoff place in the end. But Saturday’s trip to face Sacramento kicks off a run of four games against teams sitting currently in the top seven of the Western Conference, a sequence that is going to be the biggest obstacle between El Paso and the postseason.

11. San Antonio FC
11. San Antonio FC
Record: 10-12-8, 38pts
Playoff Odds 53 percent
Projected Final Position: 11th (19 percent)
Max Points Available: 50pts
Magic Number: 16pts
Upcoming: @TUL (9/25) vs. FRS (9/28)
Should San Antonio fail to reach the playoffs this season, it’s going to look at games like Wednesday night’s defeat to Tulsa Roughnecks FC as the reason why. Fredlin Mompremier’s late goal for the hosts at ONEOK Field after an almost-one-hour lightning delay dropped SAFC’s playoff odds by more than 20 percent, and now it’s going to have to bounce back against second-place Fresno FC. If it doesn’t, more points dropped will see the playoffs slide further out of view.
12. Portland Timbers 2
12. Portland Timbers 2
Record: 10-11-8, 38pts
Playoff Odds 38 percent
Projected Final Position: 12th (22 percent)
Max Points Available: 53pts
Magic Number: 16pts
Upcoming: vs. AUS (9/29)
Portland is now sitting with the 11th-best maximum points available total as it goes into Sunday’s game with Bold FC, but it’s going to need to take a win and hope others slip up if it’s going to improve its own playoff chances. A draw or a defeat to Austin would end up as costly as San Antonio’s midweek defeat in Tulsa.
13. OKC Energy FC
13. OKC Energy FC
Record: 9-10-11, 38pts
Playoff Odds 11 percent
Projected Final Position: 13th (35 percent)
Max Points Available: 50pts
Magic Number: 16pts
Upcoming: @LA (9/28)
It’s only one point below the playoff line officially, but with the teams in eighth, ninth and 10th place all having games in hand on it, Energy FC might need to take all three points from its visit to the Galaxy II. If it doesn’t, Los Dos – as well as New Mexico United and El Paso Locomotive FC – will have the chance to put daylight between themselves and their rivals below the playoff line.
14. Las Vegas Lights FC
14. Las Vegas Lights FC
Record: 9-13-8, 35pts
Playoff Odds 3 percent
Projected Final Position: 14th (50 percent)
Max Points Available: 47pts
Magic Number: 18pts
Upcoming: @COS (9/28)
Las Vegas is going to need to get on hot streak to have a chance to make the playoffs, meaning victory on the road against Colorado Springs is going to be essential this weekend. If it accomplishes that, then the home game on October 5 against San Antonio FC takes on a whole lot more meaning.
15. Rio Grande Valley FC
15. Rio Grande Valley FC
Record:8-15-7, 31pts
Playoff Odds <1 percent
Projected Final Position: 15th (65 percent)
Max Points Available: 43pts
Magic Number: 23pts
Upcoming: vs. OC (9/28)
The Toros could be mathematically eliminated this weekend with a loss, but they’re going to have plenty of people rooting for them as they take on fourth-place Orange County SC at H-E-B Park on Saturday night.
16. Tulsa Roughnecks FC
16. Tulsa Roughnecks FC
Record:7-14-9, 30pts
Playoff Odds <1 percent
Projected Final Position: 16th (60 percent)
Max Points Available: 42pts
Magic Number: 24pts
Upcoming: vs. SA (9/25), @TAC (9/28)
The Roughnecks went from the agony of defeat to the thrill of a late victory of their own against San Antonio FC. It didn’t move the needle in terms of their own chances at a playoff place, but it certainly brought smiles to a lot of faces elsewhere in the Western Conference playoff race.

Eliminated: Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC, Tacoma Defiance

EASTERN CONFERENCE

1. New York Red Bulls II
1. New York Red Bulls II
Record:17-8-5, 56pts
Playoff Odds Clinched
Projected Final Position: 2nd (20 percent)
Max Points Available: 68pts
Magic Number: N/A
Upcoming: vs. CHS (9/21)
The Red Bulls II are still sitting on top of the Eastern Conference after Indy burned up one of its games in hand on Wednesday and can put pressure on the other teams fighting for a top-two finish if they win their regular-season home finale on Friday night against the Charleston Battery.
2. Indy Eleven
2. Indy Eleven
Record:17-7-5, 56pts
Playoff Odds Clinched
Projected Final Position: 1st (25 percent)
Max Points Available: 71pts
Magic Number: N/A
Upcoming: @PIT (9/28)
Indy saw its odds of finishing first in the Eastern Conference go from 60 percent to 25 percent in the span of two road defeats to Birmingham Legion FC and ATL UTD 2, and now faces the prospect of ceding the inside track to top spot when it visits Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC on Saturday night at Highmark Stadium. As important as home-field advantage has been to the Eleven this season, there’s now a 17-percent chance it finishes in fifth place.
3. Tampa Bay Rowdies
3. Tampa Bay Rowdies
Record:16-6-8, 56pts
Playoff Odds Clinched
Projected Final Position: 3rd (20 percent)
Max Points Available: 68pts
Magic Number: N/A
Upcoming: @LOU (9/28)
The Rowdies’ path to finishing in first place squeaked open a little wider with Indy’s loss on Wednesday night, but in order to get there Tampa Bay is likely going to have to do something it’s not done previously; take points from Louisville at Slugger Field. The Rowdies have struck out in each of their previous two visits, and LouCity is on a strong run of form, both of which would make an away win a huge result if the visitors can pull it off.
4. Nashville SC
4. Nashville SC
Record:16-7-7, 55pts
Playoff Odds Clinched
Projected Final Position: 3rd (22 percent)
Max Points Available: 67pts
Magic Number: N/A
Upcoming: @LDN (9/28)
Nashville is sitting in the most precarious position when it comes to a top-four position after Pittsburgh’s victory on Tuesday night, and Loudoun’s 4-1 win on Wednesday against the Swope Park Rangers might have raised some eyebrows as well in the NSC camp. If Nashville can pick up all three points, though, it’s not out of the question that it could end up in the top two as it currently holds a 36-percent chance.
5. Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC
5. Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC
Record:15-4-10, 55pts
Playoff Odds Clinched
Projected Final Position: 1st (26 percent)
Max Points Available: 70pts
Magic Number: N/A
Upcoming: vs. IND (9/28)
Pittsburgh now has the highest odds of any team in the Eastern Conference of taking first place, and with a club-record six-game shutout streak going into Saturday’s game against Indy Eleven it looks to be hitting its best form at the right time. After resting Neco Brett and Steevan Dos Santos in Memphis, the Hounds’ attack should be raring to go again as it looks to add to its 50 goals this season.
6. Louisville City FC
6. Louisville City FC
Record:14-7-8, 50pts
Playoff Odds >99 percent
Projected Final Position: 6th (58 percent)
Max Points Available: 65pts
Magic Number: 3pts
Upcoming: vs. TBR (9/28)
Louisville could clinch a playoff place on Friday night without kicking a ball if the Charleston Battery lose to the New York Red Bulls II at MSU Soccer Park, but it’ll be focused on making it three wins out of three at home to the Rowdies on Saturday night. That result would not only assure LouCity of a playoff place regardless of Charleston’s result, but also set up a chance at a top-four finish if other results go the club’s way.
7. North Carolina FC
7. North Carolina FC
Record:13-9-8, 47pts
Playoff Odds >99 percent
Projected Final Position: 7th (44 percent)
Max Points Available: 59pts
Magic Number: 7pts
Upcoming: vs. OTT (9/28)
North Carolina will be rooting for the Red Bulls II on Friday night against Charleston, with a New York win putting NCFC within range of clinching a playoff place the following night against Ottawa Fury FC. As important, though, is going to be North Carolina putting some positive results together before the postseason arrives. If it suffers a fifth defeat in its last six outings against Fury FC, it would drop to eighth in the standings and offer an opening to ninth-place Saint Louis FC to close the gap as well.
8. Ottawa Fury FC
8. Ottawa Fury FC
Record:12-8-9, 45pts
Playoff Odds >99 percent
Projected Final Position: 8th (39 percent)
Max Points Available: 60pts
Magic Number: 9pts
Upcoming: @NC (9/28)
Ottawa can’t quite clinch a playoff place this weekend, but if it can keep its good form going it can move into seventh place in the standings ahead of North Carolina FC and move closer to clinching a home game for the play-in round when the postseason arrives.
9. Saint Louis FC
9. Saint Louis FC
Record:11-10-8, 41pts
Playoff Odds 91 percent
Projected Final Position: 9th (39 percent)
Max Points Available: 56pts
Magic Number: 13pts
Upcoming: vs. ATL (9/28)
On the positive side for Saint Louis, it’s going to be taking on an ATL UTD 2 side that played on Wednesday night as it looks to start a new winning streak at home on Saturday. On the downside, it’s an Atlanta side that seems to have figured some things out recently, winning three of its last four after its win against Indy Eleven, which could make for a more challenging task than might have been expected a few weeks ago.
10. Birmingham Legion FC
10. Birmingham Legion FC
Record:11-11-6, 39pts
Playoff Odds 57 percent
Projected Final Position: 11th (40 percent)
Max Points Available: 54pts
Magic Number: 15pts
Upcoming: @SPR (9/30)
After laying down a marker last weekend for Charleston to match, Birmingham will this week have to watch the Battery on Friday night as they visit the New York Red Bulls II holding a chance to jump past Legion FC in the standings and put added pressure on Birmingham’s Monday night clash with Swope Park. Whatever the result at MSU Soccer Park, though, Legion FC is going to want all three points against the last-place Rangers.

11. Charleston Battery
11. Charleston Battery
Record:9-9-11, 38pts
Playoff Odds 52 percent
Projected Final Position: 11th (41 percent)
Max Points Available: 53pts
Magic Number: 16pts
Upcoming: @NY (9/27)
The Battery have a chance to overtake Birmingham for 10th place on Friday night. The only thing standing in their way is a New York Red Bulls II side that is very good at home and will be looking to break a two-game losing streak of its own. Charleston has won on the road at the Red Bulls II previously, though, and now would be the perfect time for a repeat performance before Legion FC takes the field on Monday night.
13. Memphis 901 FC
12. Memphis 901 FC
Record:8-14-7, 31pts
Playoff Odds <1 percent
Projected Final Position: 12th (41 percent)
Max Points Available: 49pts
Magic Number: 23pts
Upcoming: vs. BST (9/28)
Memphis became the latest side to get shut out by Riverhounds SC on Tuesday night, and now its playoff hopes are pretty much gone. It can still get some good feeling going on Saturday night in what has the potential to be a free-wheeling contest against Bethlehem Steel FC.
13. Bethlehem Steel FC
13. Bethlehem Steel FC
Record:8-15-6, 30pts
Playoff Odds <1 percent
Projected Final Position: 12th (39 percent)
Max Points Available: 45pts
Magic Number: 24pts
Upcoming: @MEM (9/28)
Bethlehem can’t be officially eliminated this weekend from playoff contention, but even a five-game winning streak for either it or its hosts on Saturday night, Memphis 901 FC, would be unlikely to get a playoff berth for either club.
14. Atlanta United 2
14. Atlanta United 2
Record:8-16-6, 30pts
Playoff Odds <1 percent
Projected Final Position: 15th (34 percent)
Max Points Available: 42pts
Magic Number: 24pts
Upcoming: @STL (9/28)
Everybody at the top of the Eastern Conference will have been elated by Atlanta’s victory on Wednesday night. Now both Birmingham Legion FC and the Charleston Battery are hoping it can produce an encore against Saint Louis on Saturday.
15. Loudoun United FC
15. Loudoun United FC
Record:7-15-6, 27pts
Playoff Odds <1 percent
Projected Final Position: 14th (23 percent)
Max Points Available: 45pts
Magic Number: 27pts
Upcoming: vs. NSH (9/28)
Gordon Wild’s first hat trick in Loudoun’s short history will have drawn some eyes from around the rest of the Eastern Conference, with Nashville on Saturday the first of a number of contenders to visit Segra Field the rest of the way.

Eliminated: Charlotte Independence, Hartford Athletic, Swope Park Rangers

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